EXCL Emily Thornberry says Boris Johnson must quit if Nazanin Ratcliffe is jailed for five years

Posted On: 
6th November 2017

Emily Thornberry has called on Boris Johnson to resign as Foreign Secretary if his gaffe about Nazanin Ratcliffe’s reasons for being in Iran add five more years to her prison sentence.

Boris Johnson is under pressure over his latest gaffe.
Credit: 
PA Images

The Shadow Foreign Secretary said Mr Johnson should "take full responsibility in both a moral and political sense" for his remarks to MPs last week.

Mr Johnson is under intense pressure after he mistakenly told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee that Ms Ratcliffe was “simply teaching people journalism” when she was detained by the Iranian authorities 18 months ago.

Boris Johnson blunder 'risks five more years in prison for British-Iranian woman'

Boris Johnson accuses MPs of ‘point scoring’ for demanding an apology over dead bodies gaffe

Downing Street slaps down Boris Johnson over Libya ‘dead bodies’ gaffe

His comments led to the British national being hauled before an Iranian court at the weekend and told it could add five more years to her prison term for unknown offences.

In a statement today, the chief executive Ms Ratcliffe's employers, the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said: "I once again urge Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to immediately correct the serious mistake he made at the Foreign Affairs Committee in Parliament

"On 1 November he said that Nazanin ‘was training journalists’ in Iran. I have immediately clarified that this is not right as she is not a journalist and has never trained journalists at the Thomson Reuters Foundation."

In a letter to Mr Johnson seen by PoliticsHome, Ms Thornberry said Mr Johnson's comment "reveals a fundamental lack of interest or concern for the details of Nazanin’s case and the consequences of your words".

She said: "While your previous gaffes in the role of Foreign Secretary may have seriously damaged this country's interests abroad, and caused grave offence to our international partners, this is - I believe - the first time that one of your comments has directly harmed the interests and prospects of a British national who instead should have been entitled to expect your support and aid.

"The responsibility to fix this latest crisis for Nazanin is yours and yours alone. You must immediately contact your counterparts in the Iranian authorities, admit to the gross error that you have made, and implore them not to make Nazanin ‎the victim for your own personal ineptitude. You must then re-start the process of attempting to secure her release, one which I hope you have not irreparably damaged through your actions this week."

The Labour frontbencher also urged the Foreign Secretary to apologise to Ms Ratcliffe's family and all those campaigning for her release.

She added: "In the event that your actions have indeed cause irreparable harm to Nazanin's prospects of freedom and result in her sentence being lengthened, I hope and trust that you will take full responsibility for that, in both a moral and political sense, and consider your position accordingly."

A Foreign Office spokesman insisted Mr Johnson's words had been taken out of context, and he would be making that clear to the Iranian government.

He said: "While criticising the Iranian case against Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Foreign Secretary sought to explain that even the most extreme set of unproven Iranian allegations against her were insufficient reason for her detention and treatment.

"The UK will continue to do all it can to secure her release on humanitarian grounds and the Foreign Secretary will be calling the Iranian Foreign Minister to raise again his serious concerns about the case and ensure his remarks are not misrepresented."